Benchmark Business Group

Does Your Team Listen for Solutions?

March 27, 2018

In our last insight, we discussed creating a problem-solving mindset within your team and how important it is, when solving a problem, to start with the end result. Starting with the end result begins with another key skill all employees need - listening.
When you're trying to solve a problem, regardless of whether the problem is with a co-worker, a client, or a vendor, you have to listen to understand the root problem in order to solve it. The root problem is often buried under symptoms of the issue and emotions that are created by the issue.
Getting to the root issue requires a true problem solver to listen on a more proactive level. You can't listen to just what is being said, you have to listen in a way that allows you to move past the emotions and not get distracted by a symptom of the problem.
Listening proactively cannot happen unless you are present. Which means all the distractions in your day-to-day world have to be tuned out. That incoming email, the next person waiting to talk to you, the pile of work on your desk, all has to be put aside.
Being proactive and present are major elements in listening for a solution, but the problem with listening is that we all listen through personal filters. Our listening filters are created by a variety of elements such as past experiences, our values and beliefs, how we judge the person speaking to us, and even the situation. For instance, if the person seems upset, you may be more defensive when you listen to their issue. Or, if you dealt with a similar issue a week ago, it can be tempting to jump to the solution you already used, making the assumption it will work again, but in doing so you miss the ability to be present and proactive.
Listening from a filter isn't right or wrong. Everyone does it to some extent. It is however, something you can improve through developing listening skills. Listening is a comprehensive skill that we can't cover in one newsletter, so this week when working with your team (or yourself) we encourage you to take the first big step in Listening; pay attention and observe the filters from which you listen. Common filters that get in the way of true problem solving include: 
  • Listening while Distracted - Everyone loves to think that they can multitask, but studies from the University of London show that multitasking can actually lower your IQ by multiple points. Save those IQ points to listen for solutions.
  • Listening to be Right - When problem solving, emotions can get in the way of hearing the issue at hand. Someone might even be blaming you for the problem that you need to solve. Yet, if you take offense or listen to prove you are right you'll miss details that can be helpful in finding the solution.  
  • Listening to Answer - If you're listening to know how you're going to answer then you're not hearing what the other person is saying. Your attention is already on your response. The best problem solvers don't have the answer immediately. Give yourself time to work through the problem.
If there's one clear rule to apply when listening to find a solution - it's simply that listening is not about you. It's about being open and curious enough to find the root cause of the issue. If you are listening and find yourself annoyed, frustrated, defensive, etc., then it's a good sign that you're listening from your own filter. 
When you listen from your own filter, you are not able to be proactive and present. Take a moment to remove your filters, get clear about the issue, and focus on the result to be achieved.

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